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Old 03-12-13   #1
TheThing
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Default Stonehenge Was A Graveyard?

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Stonehenge originated as a giant graveyard for elite families: Study

New studies of cremated human remains excavated from the site suggest that about 500 years before the Stonehenge we know today was built, a larger stone circle was erected at the same site as a community graveyard, researchers said Saturday.

LONDON—British researchers have proposed a new theory for the origins of Stonehenge: It may have started as a giant burial ground for elite families around 3,000 B.C.

New studies of cremated human remains excavated from the site suggest that about 500 years before the Stonehenge we know today was built, a larger stone circle was erected at the same site as a community graveyard, researchers said Saturday.

“These were men, women, children, so presumably family groups,” University College London professor Mike Parker Pearson, who led the team, said. “We’d thought that maybe it was a place where a dynasty of kings was buried, but this seemed to be much more of a community, a different kind of power structure.”

Parker Pearson said archeologists studied the cremated bones of 63 individuals, and believed that they were buried around 3,000 B.C. The location of many of the cremated bodies was originally marked by bluestones, he said. That earlier circular enclosure, which measured around 91 metres across, could have been the burial ground for about 200 more people, Parker Pearson said.

Read more - http://www.thestar.com/news/world/20...ies_study.html
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Old 03-13-13   #2
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Default Re: Stonehenge Was A Graveyard?

I've always believed in the astronomical observatory idea for Stonehenge, myself. Although, that idea doesn't conflict at all with it being a graveyard, because it probably makes a lot of sense, that rich people from that period, would have wanted to be buried near a monument of such importance.
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Old 03-13-13   #3
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Default Re: Stonehenge Was A Graveyard?

Wow! That is really something.

Now, what to make of it?
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Old 03-13-13   #4
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Default Re: Stonehenge Was A Graveyard?

Well lets face it folks, Stonehenge wasn't built in a day, or a week or even a year. It must have taken several years, possibly even decades, to carve the stones, transport them and them erect them in the correct positions.

It stands to reason that there would have been deaths during the process.

If people died building Stonehenge, it stands to reason that they would be buried nearby, or even in the circles.

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Old 03-14-13   #5
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Default Re: Stonehenge Was A Graveyard?

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Originally Posted by theitchywitch View Post
Well lets face it folks, Stonehenge wasn't built in a day, or a week or even a year. It must have taken several years, possibly even decades, to carve the stones, transport them and them erect them in the correct positions.
Best archaeology to date is that 'Stonehenge' began as a ditch-and-bank monument in about 3000BCE, with timber monuments by about 2700, the first stones (the Bluestones and some of the marker stones) by about 2500, and the final Sarsens by 2000. Not decades, 1000 years.

The various phases probably had different purposes - in fact, despite the modern-day druids, no-one can say for certain that it was religious: it was certainly ceremonial, but it could have been, as this press release suggests, political ceremony.

Quite why this surfaced now eludes me and I kind of suspect that it's a piece of academic infighting presenting one side of the argument. Or perhaps, the cynic in me suggests, funding for the Riverside project will come to an end in May and it's an attempt to fluff up the proposal for further funding.

Parker Pearson's team, then based at Durham Uni (Parker Pearson et al, 2009) published a study in 2009. Ironically, living only thirty-ish miles from Stonehenge, we were in Durham when the paper hit the newsstands - not quite literally, but 'Antiquity' features in the reading material provided by several local pubs. We got 'local hero' status for being able to describe the relationship between Stonehenge and nearby Durrington[1], which also features in said paper. At that time they proposed that the original cremation cemetery may have been a burial site for an extended family from Wales. This is based on similarity between Stonehenge I and Llandegai A, the latter being something like seventy miles north of the source of the Bluestones, in the Presceli mountains. My guess is that the reference to Scotland is based on other similarities with Cairnpapple, near Edinburgh, which was active about 2800-1800 BCE.

Even in 2009, though, the burials weren't really new news. AFAIK, the first cremation burials were excavated in the 1919-1926 work. Many were reburied in Aubrey Hole 7, and there's a little plaque there. An intensive study of about fifty cremation burials and forty unburned bones was published in 1995, and from that work Pitts (2001) estimated 240 burials between 3000 and 2500 BCE. More conservative estimates based on single burials are around the 150 mark, which really isn't an awful lot for 500 years.

Stonehenge is also part of a significantly larger landscape including the 'ceremonial way' or cursus, Durrington Walls, and a number of barrows: one from the ridge that overlooks the stones was found to contain a body with full ceremonial regalia - it's tempting to interpret this as a shaman buried where he could look down on his ritual site, but sadly there's no evidence. Parker Pearson's claim that the occupation centred on the solstices is equally thin: it's base on a paper he co-authored, Viner et al, 2010, Cattle Mobility in prehistoric Britain. Dig into that and the only related results are that some cattle came to Durrington from Scotland. Strontium analysis can't tell you when the cattle were slaughtered.

The related finds are in nearby Devises museum, which is, IMO, a better place to find out how Stonehenge fits into the landscape than the Stonehenge visitor centre - partly because English Heritage has nothing to do with the displays in Devises.

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[1] A shameless plug for a mate of mine, if you're visiting from any distance. He runs the Stonehenge Inn at Durrington, visible from the main roundabout, good quality pub grub and B&B at prices much lower than anywhere on the main road.
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Old 03-16-13   #6
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Default Re: Stonehenge Was A Graveyard?

There has recently been a tv programme about it too, on Channel4 (I think). There is an assumption there that makes the whole theory ring untrue for me. In the programme, the professor is on about the original outer ring of bluestones were used as grave markers, and bodies were found under less than half of them (or rather at the bottom of the pits where they sat). So why would you erect a gravemarker over an empty grave?
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Old 03-16-13   #7
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Default Re: Stonehenge Was A Graveyard?

If Parker Pearson actually approved the Star copy, he didn't do a particularly good job. The 2009 article lists the carbon-dated cremations as being primarily from 'ditch fill' and suggests that although over half of the excavated Aubrey holes contain cremation or unburned bone material, only in hole 32 is there definite evidence that the cremation is 'primary deposit' - that is that in 2009 the evidence was that most were secondary deposits. Thus, even if the Riverside team is correct in that the Bluestones were originally in the Aubrey holes, they'd been moved by the time the cremations found their way into the holes. His own chronology (which is widely disputed) says that this happened in about 2250 BCE. Sine the adjusted radiocarbon dates for the cremations are about 800-500 years earlier than that, logic suggests that the cremations were first buried elsewhere.

But in 2009, they didn't have any evidence that the Aubrey Holes ever contained Bluestone: they made a convincing case based on comparison with Durrington Walls and Woodhenge that they never contained posts, then simply 'propose' that they could equally well have just been pits. Notably, the UCL press release, which I've since found, states as fact that the original cremations were marked by the Bluestones, but doesn't say that they were in the Aubrey holes. I don't think they have any new evidence at all.

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